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AKIPRESS.COM - The United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union called after crisis talks on Thursday for an immediate halt to violence in Ukraine, where Western powers believe Russia is fomenting a pro-Russian separatist movement, bdnews24 reported.
U.S. President Barack Obama said the meeting in Geneva between Russia and western powers was promising but that the United States and its allies were prepared to impose more sanctions on Russia if the situation fails to improve.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking in Moscow, accused Ukraine's leaders of committing a “grave crime” by using the army to try to quell unrest in the east of the country, and did not rule out sending in Russian troops.
Putin said he hoped he would not need to take such a step, and that diplomacy could succeed in resolving the standoff, the worst crisis in East-West relations since the Cold War.
The comments came hours after protesters attacked a Ukrainian national guard base, and Kiev said three of them were killed in the worst bloodshed yet in a 10-day uprising.
Ukrainian, Russian and Western diplomats were seeking to resolve a confrontation that has seen pro-Russian fighters seize official buildings across eastern Ukraine while Moscow masses tens of thousands of troops on the frontier.
“All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions,” a joint statement said. “All illegal armed groups must be disarmed; all illegally seized buildings must be returned to legitimate owners; all illegally occupied streets, squares and other public places in Ukrainian cities and towns must be vacated.”
It was unclear if Russia would meet Western demands for it to stop stirring unrest in the east and withdraw its troops from the Ukrainian border. Moscow denies it is active in Ukraine.
The U.S. State Department said the talks had achieved more than some people had expected.
Still, there was skepticism over whether the agreement could work.
U.S Secretary of State John Kerry said there would be additional sanctions on Russia if it did not act to calm tensions in Ukraine.
The United States and European Union have so far imposed visa bans and asset freezes on a number of Russians, a response that Moscow has openly mocked. However, the Western states say they are now contemplating measures that could hurt Russia's economy more broadly.
But some EU nations at least are reluctant to press ahead with more sanctions, fearing that could provoke Russia further or end up hurting their own economies.